seamus dubhghaill

Promoting Irish Culture and History from Little Rock, Arkansas, USA


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Birth of Poet Michael Hartnett

Michael Hartnett, Irish poet who writes in both English and Irish, is born in Croom Hospital in Croom, County Limerick, on September 18, 1941. He is one of the most significant voices in late 20th-century Irish writing and has been called “Munster‘s de facto poet laureate.”

Although Hartnett’s parents’ name is Harnett, he is registered in error as Hartnett on his birth certificate. In later life he declines to change this as his legal name is closer to the Irish Ó hAirtnéide. He grows up in the Maiden Street area of Newcastle West, County Limerick, spending much of his time with his grandmother, Bridget Halpin, who resides in the townland of Camas, in the countryside nearby. He claims that his grandmother is one of the last native speakers to live in County Limerick, though she is originally from northern County Kerry. Although she speaks to him mainly in English, he listens to her conversing with her friends in Irish, and as such, he is quite unaware of the imbalances between English and Irish. When he begins school, he is made aware of the tensions between both languages, and is surprised to discover that Irish is considered an endangered language, taught as a contrived, rule-laden code, with little of the literary attraction which it holds for him. He is educated in the local national and secondary schools in Newcastle West. He emigrates to England the day after he finishes his secondary education and goes to work as a tea boy on a building site in London.

Hartnett has started writing by this time and his work comes to be known of the poet John Jordan, who is professor of English at University College Dublin. Jordan invites him to attend the university for a year. While back in Dublin, he co-edits the literary magazine Arena with James Liddy. He also works as curator of James Joyce‘s tower at Sandycove for a time. He returns briefly to London, where he meets Rosemary Grantley on May 16, 1965, and they are married on April 4, 1966. His first book, Anatomy of a Cliché, is published by Poetry Ireland in 1968 to critical acclaim and he returns to live permanently in Dublin that same year.

Hartnett works as a night telephonist at the telephone exchange on Exchequer Street. He now enters a productive relationship with New Writers Press, run by Michael Smith and Trevor Joyce. They publish his next three books. The first of these is a translation from the Irish, The Old Hag of Beare (1969), followed by Selected Poems (1970) and Tao (1972). This last book is a version of the Chinese Tao Te Ching. His Gypsy Ballads (1973), a translation of the Romancero Gitano of Federico García Lorca, is published by the Goldsmith Press.

In 1974 Hartnett decides to leave Dublin and return to his rural roots, as well as deepen his relationship with the Irish language. He goes to live in Templeglantine, five miles from Newcastle West, and works for a time as a lecturer in creative writing at Thomond College of Education, Limerick.

In his 1975 book, A Farewell to English, Hartnett declares his intention to write only in Irish in the future, describing English as “the perfect language to sell pigs in.” A number of volumes in Irish follow including Adharca Broic (1978), An Phurgóid (1983) and Do Nuala: Foighne Chrainn (1984). A biography on this period of his life entitled A Rebel Act Michael Hartnett’s Farewell To English by Pat Walsh is published in 2012 by Mercier Press.

In 1984 Hartnett returns to Dublin to live in the suburb of Inchicore. The following year marks his return to English with the publication of Inchicore Haiku, a book that deals with the turbulent events in his personal life over the previous few years. This is followed by a number of books in English including A Necklace of Wrens (1987), Poems to Younger Women (1989) and The Killing of Dreams (1992).

Hartnett also continues working in Irish, and produces a sequence of important volumes of translation of classic works into English. These include Ó Bruadair, Selected Poems of Dáibhí Ó Bruadair (1985) and Ó Rathaille The Poems of Aodhaghán Ó Rathaille (1999). His Collected Poems appear in two volumes in 1984 and 1987 and New and Selected Poems in 1995.

Hartnett dies from Alcoholic Liver Syndrome on October 13, 1999. A new Collected Poems appears in 2001.

Every April a literary and arts festival is held in Newcastle West in honour of Hartnett. Events are organised throughout the town and a memorial lecture is given by a distinguished guest. Former speakers include Nuala O’Faolain, Paul Durcan, David Whyte and Fintan O’Toole. The annual Michael Hartnett Poetry Award of € 4,000 also forms part of the festival. Funded by the Limerick City and County Council Arts Office and the Arts Council of Ireland, it is intended to support and encourage poets in the furtherance of their writing endeavours. Previous winners include Sinéad Morrissey and Peter Sirr.

During the 2011 Éigse, Paul Durcan unveils a bronze life-sized statue of Hartnett sculpted by Rory Breslin, in the Square, Newcastle West. Hartnett’s son Niall speaks at the unveiling ceremony.


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Bloomsday, Commemoration & Celebration of Writer James Joyce

Bloomsday is a commemoration and celebration of the life of Irish writer James Joyce, observed annually in Dublin and elsewhere on June 16, the day his novel Ulysses (1922) takes place in 1904, the date of his first outing with his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle, and named after its protagonist Leopold Bloom.

The first mention of such a celebration is found in a letter by Joyce to Miss Weaver of June 27, 1924, which refers to “a group of people who observe what they call Bloom’s day – 16 June.”

The day involves a range of cultural activities, including Ulysses readings and dramatisations, pub crawls and other events, some of it hosted by the James Joyce Centre in North Great George’s Street. Enthusiasts often dress in Edwardian costume to celebrate Bloomsday, and retrace Bloom’s route around Dublin via landmarks such as Davy Byrne’s pub. Hard-core devotees have even been known to hold marathon readings of the entire novel, some lasting up to 36 hours.

The James Joyce Tower and Museum at Sandycove, site of the opening chapter of Ulysses, hosts many free activities around Bloomsday including theatrical performances, musical events, tours of the iconic tower and readings from Joyce’s masterpiece.

In 1954, on the 50th anniversary of the events in the novel, artist, critic, publican and founder of Envoy magazine, John Ryan, and the novelist Brian O’Nolan organise what is to be a daylong pilgrimage along the Ulysses route. They are joined by Patrick Kavanagh, Anthony Cronin, Tom Joyce (Joyce’s cousin, representing the family interest) and A. J. Leventhal, a lecturer in French at Trinity College, Dublin. Ryan engages two horse-drawn cabs, of the old-fashioned sort, in which in Ulysses Mr. Bloom and his friends drive to Paddy Dignam’s funeral. The party are assigned roles from the novel. They plan to travel around the city through the day, starting at the Martello tower at Sandycove where the novel begins, visiting in turn the scenes of the novel, ending at night in what had once been the brothel quarter of the city, the area which Joyce called Nighttown. The pilgrimage is abandoned halfway through when the weary pilgrims succumb to inebriation and rancour at the Bailey pub in the city centre, which Ryan owns at the time, and at which in 1967 he installs the door to No. 7 Eccles Street (Leopold Bloom’s front door), having rescued it from demolition. A Bloomsday record of 1954, informally filmed by John Ryan, follows this pilgrimage.

On Bloomsday 1982, the centenary year of Joyce’s birth, Irish state broadcaster RTÉ transmits a continuous 30-hour dramatic performance of the entire text of Ulysses on radio.

A five-month-long festival, ReJoyce Dublin 2004, takes place in Dublin between April 1 and August 31, 2004. On the Sunday before the 100th “anniversary” of the fictional events described in the book, 10,000 people in Dublin are treated to a free, open-air, full Irish breakfast on O’Connell Street consisting of sausages, rashers, toast, beans, and black and white puddings.

The 2006 Bloomsday festivities are cancelled, the day coinciding with the funeral of former Taoiseach Charles Haughey.

(Pictured: Firstbloom (L to R) John Ryan, Anthony Cronin, Brian O’Nolan, Patrick Kavanagh and Tom Joyce (James Joyce’s cousin); Sandymount, 1954)


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Birth of William Trevor, Novelist, Playwright & Short Story Writer

William Trevor KBE, Irish novelist, playwright and short story writer, is born William Trevor Cox in Mitchelstown, County Cork, on May 24, 1928. One of the elder statesmen of the Irish literary world, he is widely regarded as one of the greatest contemporary writers of short stories in the English language.

Trevor is born to a middle-class, Anglo-Irish Protestant family. They move several times to other provincial towns, including Skibbereen, Tipperary, Youghal and Enniscorthy, as a result of his father’s work as a bank official. He is educated at St. Columba’s College, Dublin, and at Trinity College, Dublin, from which he receives a degree in history. He works as a sculptor under the name Trevor Cox after his graduation from Trinity College, supplementing his income by teaching. He marries Jane Ryan in 1952 and emigrates to Great Britain two years later, working as a copywriter for an advertising agency. It is during this time that he and his wife have their first son.

Trevor’s first novel, A Standard of Behaviour, is published in 1958 by Hutchinson of London, but has little critical success. He later disowns this work and, according to his obituary in The Irish Times, “refused to have it republished.” It was, in fact, republished in 1982 and in 1989.

In 1964, at the age of 36, Trevor wins the Hawthornden Prize for Literature for The Old Boys. The win encourages him to become a full-time writer. He and his family then move to Devon in South West England, where he resides until his death. In 2002, he makes honorary KBE for services to literature. Despite having spent most of his life in England, he considers himself to be “Irish in every vein.”

Trevor writes several collections of short stories that are well received. His short stories often follow a Chekhovian pattern. The characters in his work are typically marginalised members of society. The works of James Joyce influence his short-story writing, and “the odour of ashpits and old weeds and offal” can be detected in his work, but the overall impression is not of gloominess since, particularly in his early work, his wry humour offers the reader a tragicomic version of the world. He adapts much of his work for stage, television and radio. In 1990, Fools of Fortune is made into a film directed by Pat O’Connor, along with a 1999 film adaptation of Felicia’s Journey, which is directed by Atom Egoyan.

Trevor’s stories are set in both England and Ireland. They range from black comedies to tales based on Irish history and politics. His early books are peopled by eccentrics who speak in a pedantically formal manner and engage in hilariously comic activities that are recounted by a detached narrative voice. Instead of one central figure, the novels feature several protagonists of equal importance, drawn together by an institutional setting, which acts as a convergence point for their individual stories. The later novels are thematically and technically more complex. The operation of grace in the world is explored, and several narrative voices are used to view the same events from different angles.

Trevor wins the Whitbread Prize three times and is nominated five times for the Booker Prize, the last for his novel Love and Summer (2009), which is also shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award in 2011. His name is also mentioned in relation to the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 2014, he is bestowed Saoi by the Aosdána.

William Trevor dies peacefully in his sleep at the age of 88 on November 20, 2016 in Somerset, England.


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Birth of Singer-Songwriter Luka Bloom

Kevin Barry Moore, Irish folk singer-songwriter best known as Luka Bloom, is born on May 23, 1955 in Newbridge, County Kildare. He is the younger brother of folk singer Christy Moore.

Moore’s parents are Andy Moore and Nancy Power, who had already raised three daughters and two other sons. He attends a Patrician Brothers primary school and later studies at Newbridge College, run by the Dominican Order. In college he forms the group Aes Triplex with his brother Andy and a school friend. He later attends a college in Limerick, but he drops out after a couple of years to pursue a music career.

In 1969, 14-year-old Moore embarks on a tour supporting his eldest brother, Christy Moore, at various English folk clubs. After the tour he spends all of his time practising and writing music. In 1976, Christy records one of his songs “Wave up to the Shore.” In 1977, he tours Germany and England as part of the group Inchiquin.

In 1978, Moore releases his debut album, Treaty Stone. In 1979, having normally played guitar using a finger-picking technique, he is afflicted with tendonitis and is forced to learn to play with a plectrum, which alters his guitar style. That same year, he moves to Groningen in the Netherlands. In 1980, he records and releases his second album, In Groningen. In 1982, he releases his third album, No Heroes, which contains songs all written by Moore himself. For three years, from 1983 to 1986, he is the front-man for the Dublin-based band Red Square. During this time, in 1984, his son Robbie is born.

In 1987, Moore moves to the United States and begins performing using the stage name of “Luka Bloom.” He chooses the name “Luka” from the title of Suzanne Vega‘s song about child abuse and “Bloom” from the main character in James Joyce‘s novel Ulysses. Initially he lives and performs primarily in Washington D.C., but in late 1987 he moves to New York City. The following year, he releases his first album – later withdrawn – under the name Luka Bloom.

In 1990, Bloom releases his album Riverside, which includes the song “The Man Is Alive.” The album is recorded in New York, with its lyrics reflecting his experiences living and performing in that city. In 1991, he returns to Dublin to record The Acoustic Motorbike, which includes a cover version of LL Cool J‘s “I Need Love.” The cover song is reviewed by Rolling Stone magazine, noting that “the prospect of a folksy Irish rocker covering a rap ballad may seem strange, but experimenting with different forms is precisely what keeps established traditions vital.”

In 1993, Bloom again returns to Ireland to record the album Turf, this time with producer Brian Masterson and sound engineer Paul Ashe-Browne. The album attempts to capture the sound of a live performance, and is recorded in front of an audience that is asked to remain as quiet as possible. In 1998, he releases Salty Heaven, an album inspired by his return to Ireland.

Bloom’s early albums showcase his frenetic strumming style, including “Delirious,” the debut track on Riverside, and his penchant for thoughtful cover songs, an affinity that he maintains even in more recent work. In addition to his LL Cool J cover, he also covers Elvis Presley‘s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” on the album The Acoustic Motorbike.

Released in 2000, Keeper of the Flame is an album of cover versions featuring renditions of ABBA‘s “Dancing Queen,” Bob Marley‘s “Natural Mystic,” and the Hunters & Collectors‘ “Throw Your Arms Around Me,” among others. His 2004 acoustic mini-album, Before Sleep Comes, is recorded while he is recovering from tendinitis. He states that the purpose of the album is “to help bring you closer to sleep, our sometimes elusive night-friend.”

In 2005, Bloom releases the album Innocence. Some of the songs feature a new-found interest in Eastern European Romani music and other world music. The album features him playing classical guitar, and the resonant plucking associated with that style of instrument. In his previous work, he relies almost exclusively on steel-stringed acoustic guitars that created his distinctive style. In 2007, he releases the album Tribe, a collaboration with County Clare musician Simon O’Reilly. O’Reilly composes the music and sends the recordings to Bloom for him to complete with lyrics and singing.

In February 2008, Bloom releases a DVD titled The Man is Alive, featuring footage filmed in Dublin and at his home in Kildare, a question and answer session with fans, the documentary My Name is Luka, and a CD of music taken from the two performances. In September of that year, he releases the album Eleven Songs, which features an expanded ensemble of instrumentation, giving the album a distinct sound within his catalogue.


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Death of Irish Painter Louis le Brocquy

Louis le Brocquy, Irish painter, dies in Dublin at the age of 95 on April 25, 2012.

Le Brocquy is born in Dublin on November 10, 1916 to Albert and Sybil le Brocquy. He is educated at St. Gerard’s School, studies chemistry at Kevin Street Technical School in 1934, and then Trinity College Dublin before working at his family’s oil refinery. Turning to art at the age of 21, he learns through studying the works of Diego Velázquez, Édouard Manet, and Paul Cézanne, in various museums across Europe. Returning to Ireland at the outbreak of World War II, he focuses his attention on depicting themes from Celtic mythology as well as individuals of Ireland’s Travellers ethnic minority.

Le Brocquy’s work receives many accolades in a career that spans some seventy years of creative practice. In 1956, he represents Ireland at the Venice Biennale, winning the Premio Acquisito Internationale (a once-off award when the event was acquired by the Nestle Corporation) with A Family (National Gallery of Ireland), subsequently included in the historic exhibition Fifty Years of Modern Art at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. That same year he marries the Irish painter Anne Madden and leaves London to work in the French Midi.

Le Brocquy is widely acclaimed for his evocative “Portrait Heads” of literary figures and fellow artists, which include William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, and his friends Samuel Beckett, Francis Bacon and Seamus Heaney. In his later years le Brocquy’s early “Tinker” subjects and Grey period “Family” paintings, attract attention on the international marketplace placing le Brocquy within a very select group of British and Irish artists whose works have commanded prices in excess of £1 million during their lifetimes. Others in this group include Lucian Freud, David Hockney, Frank Auerbach, and Francis Bacon.

Today, Le Brocquy’s work is represented in numerous public collections from the San Diego Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City to the Tate Modern in London. In Ireland, he is honoured as the first and only painter to be included during his lifetime in the Permanent Irish Collection of the National Gallery of Ireland.

Le Brocquy designs the covers for the albums The Lark in the Morning and The Rising of the Moon: Irish Songs of Rebellion. A member of Aosdána, he is elected Saoi in 1994, which is the highest honour that members of Aosdána can bestow upon a fellow member. No more than seven living members can be so honoured at one time.

Le Brocquy dies in Dublin on April 25, 2012 and is survived by his daughter Seyre from his first marriage (1938–1948) to Jean Stoney, and his two grandsons John-Paul and David; his second wife Anne Madden, and their two sons, Pierre and Alexis.


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Edna O’Brien Receives the Irish PEN Award for Literature

Josephine Edna O’Brien, novelist, memoirist, playwright, poet and short story writer, receives a lifetime achievement award from the society for Irish writers, the Irish PEN Award for Literature, on February 2, 2001 in recognition of her work which spans 25 years. Philip Roth describes her as “the most gifted woman now writing in English,” while Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, cites her as “one of the great creative writers of her generation.”

O’Brien is born on December 15, 1930, the youngest child of farmer Michael O’Brien and Lena Cleary at Tuamgraney, County Clare, a place she would later describe as “fervid” and “enclosed.” Her father inherits a “thousand acres or more” and “a fortune from rich uncles,” but is a “profligate” hard-drinker who gambles away his inheritance, the land sold off or bartered to pay debts. From 1941 to 1946 she is educated by the Sisters of Mercy at the Convent of Mercy boarding school at Loughrea, County Galway – a circumstance that contributes to a “suffocating” childhood. In 1950, having studied at night at pharmaceutical college and worked in a Dublin pharmacy during the day, she is awarded a licence as a pharmacist. She reads such writers as Leo Tolstoy, William Makepeace Thackeray, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

In Dublin, O’Brien purchases Introducing James Joyce, with an introduction written by T. S. Eliot, and says that when she learned that James Joyce‘s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was autobiographical, it made her realise where she might turn, should she want to write herself. “Unhappy houses are a very good incubation for stories”, she says. In London she starts work as a reader for Hutchinson, a publishing firm, where on the basis of her reports she is commissioned, for £50, to write a novel. She publishes her first book, The Country Girls, in 1960. This is the first part of a trilogy of novels (later collected as The Country Girls Trilogy), which includes The Lonely Girl (1962) and Girls in Their Married Bliss (1964). Shortly after their publication, these books are banned and in some cases burned in her native country due to their frank portrayals of the sex lives of their characters. She is accused of “corrupting the minds of young women.” She later says, “I felt no fame. I was married. I had young children. All I could hear out of Ireland from my mother and anonymous letters was bile and odium and outrage.”

In the 1960s, O’Brien is a patient of R. D. Laing. “I thought he might be able to help me. He couldn’t do that – he was too mad himself – but he opened doors,” she later says. Her novel A Pagan Place (1970) is about her repressive childhood. Her parents were vehemently against all things related to literature. Her mother strongly disapproved of her daughter’s career as a writer. Once when her mother found a Seán O’Casey book in her daughter’s possession, she tried to burn it.

O’Brien is a panel member for the first edition of BBC One‘s Question Time in 1979. In 2017 she becomes the sole surviving member.

In 1980, O’Brien writes a play, Virginia, about Virginia Woolf, and it is staged originally in June 1980 at the Stratford Festival, Ontario, Canada and subsequently in the West End of London at the Theatre Royal Haymarket with Maggie Smith and directed by Robin Phillips. It is staged at The Public Theater in New York City in 1985. Other works include a biography of James Joyce, published in 1999, and one of the poet Lord Byron, Byron in Love (2009). House of Splendid Isolation (1994), her novel about a terrorist who goes on the run and whose research involves visiting Irish republican Dominic McGlinchey who is later killed and whom she calls “a grave and reflective man,” marks a new phase in her writing career. Down by the River (1996) concerns an under-age rape victim who seeks an abortion in England, the “Miss X case.” In the Forest (2002) deals with the real-life case of Brendan O’Donnell, who abducts and murders a woman, her three-year-old son, and a priest, in rural Ireland.

In addition to the Irish PEN Award, O’Brien’s awards include The Yorkshire Post Book Award in 1970 for A Pagan Place, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 1990 for Lantern Slides. In 2006, she is appointed adjunct professor of English Literature at University College Dublin.

In 2009, O’Brien is honoured with the Bob Hughes Lifetime Achievement Award during a special ceremony at the year’s Irish Book Awards in Dublin. Her collection Saints and Sinners wins the 2011 Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, with judge Thomas McCarthy referring to her as “the Solzhenitsyn of Irish life.” RTÉ airs a documentary on her as part of its Arts strand in early 2012. For her contributions to literature, she is appointed an honorary Dame of the Order of the British Empire on April 10, 2018.

In 2019, O’Brien is awarded the David Cohen Prize for Literature at a ceremony in London. The £40,000 prize, awarded every two years in recognition of a living writer’s lifetime achievement in literature, has been described as the “UK and Ireland Nobel in literature.” Judge David Park says, “In winning the David Cohen Prize, Edna O’Brien adds her name to a literary roll call of honour.”

(Pictured: Edna O’Brien speaking at the 2016 Hay Festival, photo by Andrew Lih and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license)


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Death of James Stephens, Novelist & Poet

James Stephens, Irish novelist and poet, dies in London, England on December 26, 1950, Saint Stephen’s Day.

Stephens’ birth is somewhat shrouded in mystery. He claims to have been born on the same day and same year as James Joyce, February 2, 1882, whereas he is in fact probably the same James Stephens who is on record as being born at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, on February 9 1880, the son of Francis Stephens of 5 Thomas’s Court, Dublin, a vanman and a messenger for a stationer’s office, and his wife, Charlotte Collins. His father dies when he is two years old and, when he was six years old, his mother remarries. He is committed to the Meath Protestant Industrial School for boys in Blackrock for begging on the streets, where he spends much of the rest of his childhood. He attends school with his adoptive brothers Thomas and Richard Collins before graduating as a solicitor‘s clerk. They compete and win several athletic competitions despite James’ tiny 4’10” stature. He is known affectionately as “Tiny Tim.” He is much enthralled by the tales of military valour of his adoptive family and would have become a soldier except for his height.

By the early 1900s Stephens is increasingly inclined to socialism and the Irish language and by 1912 is a dedicated Irish Republican. He is a close friend of the 1916 leader Thomas MacDonagh, who is then editor of The Irish Review and deputy headmaster in St. Enda’s School, the radical bilingual Montessori school run by Patrick Pearse and later manager of the Irish Theatre. He spends much time with MacDonagh in 1911. His growing nationalism brings a schism with his adoptive family, but probably wins him his job as registrar in the National Gallery of Ireland, where he works between 1915 and 1925, having previously had an ill-paid job with the Mecredy firm of solicitors.

Stephens produces many retellings of Irish myths. His retellings are marked by a rare combination of humour and lyricism, with Deirdre and Irish Fairy Tales especially often praised. He also writes several original novels, including The Crock of Gold, Etched in Moonlight and Demi-Gods, based loosely on Irish wonder tales. The Crock of Gold in particular has achieved enduring popularity and has often been reprinted.

Stephens begins his career as a poet under the tutelage of poet and painter Æ (George William Russell). His first book of poems, Insurrections, is published in 1909. His last book, Kings and the Moon (1938), is also a volume of verse. His influential account of the 1916 Easter Rising, Insurrection in Dublin, describes the effect of the deaths by execution of his friend Thomas MacDonagh and others as being “like watching blood oozing from under a door.”

Stephens later lives between Paris, London and Dublin. During the 1930s he is a friend of James Joyce, and they wrongly believe that they share a birthday. Joyce, who is concerned about his ability to finish what later becomes Finnegans Wake, proposes that Stephens assist him, with the authorship credited to JJ & S (for “Jameses Joyce & Stephens”, but also a pun on the popular Jameson Irish Whiskey, made by John Jameson & Sons). The plan is never implemented, as Joyce is able to complete the work on his own.

During the last decade of his life Stephens finds a new audience through a series of broadcasts on the BBC.


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Death of Tom Kettle, Economist, Journalist, Politician & Soldier

thomas-michael-kettleThomas Michael “Tom” Kettle, Irish economist, journalist, barrister, writer, war poet, soldier and Home Rule politician, dies on September 9, 1916 during the World War I Battle of the Somme in France.

Kettle is born on February 9, 1880 in Malahide or Artane, Dublin, the seventh of twelve children of Andrew J. Kettle (1833–1916), a leading Irish nationalist politician, progressive farmer, agrarian agitator and founding member of the Irish National Land League, and his wife, Margaret (née McCourt). One of his brothers is the industrial pioneer Laurence Kettle. He is influenced considerably through his father’s political activities.

Like his brothers, Kettle is educated at the Christian BrothersO’Connell School at Richmond Street, Dublin, where he excels. In 1894 he goes to study with the Jesuits at Clongowes Wood College in County Kildare, known as a wit and a good debater. He enjoys athletics, cricket and cycling and attains honours in English and French when leaving. He enters University College Dublin in 1897.

As a member of the Irish Parliamentary Party, Kettle is Member of Parliament (MP) for East Tyrone from 1906 to 1910 at Westminster. He is a much admired old comrade of James Joyce, who considers him to be his best friend in Ireland, as well as the likes of Francis Sheehy-Skeffington, Oliver St. John Gogarty and Robert Wilson Lynd. He joins the Irish Volunteers in 1913 and upon the outbreak of World War I in 1914 enlists for service in the British Army.

Kettle is killed in action with ‘B’ Company of the 9th Battalion of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in an attack on German lines on September 9, 1916, near the village of Ginchy during the Somme Offensive in France. During the advance he is felled when the Dublin Fusiliers are “struck with a tempest of fire,” and having risen from the initial blow, he is struck again and killed outright. His body is buried in a battlefield grave by the Welsh Guards, but the location of the grave is subsequently lost. His name is etched on the monumental arched gateway for the missing of the Somme at Thiepval.

Kettle is one of the leading figures of the generation who, at the turn of the twentieth century, give new intellectual life to Irish party politics, and to the constitutional movement towards All-Ireland Home Rule. A gifted speaker with an incisive mind and devastating wit, his death is regarded as a great loss to Ireland’s political and intellectual life.

As G. K. Chesterton surmises, “Thomas Michael Kettle was perhaps the greatest example of that greatness of spirit which was so ill rewarded on both sides of the channel […] He was a wit, a scholar, an orator, a man ambitious in all the arts of peace; and he fell fighting the barbarians because he was too good a European to use the barbarians against England, as England a hundred years before has used the barbarians against Ireland.”


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Birth of Jack Butler Yeats, Artist & Olympic Medalist

John “Jack” Butler Yeats, Irish artist and Olympic medalist, is born in London, England on August 29, 1871.

Yeats’s early style is that of an illustrator. He only begins to work regularly in oils in 1906. His early pictures are simple lyrical depictions of landscapes and figures, predominantly from the west of Ireland, especially of his boyhood home of Sligo, County Sligo. His work contains elements of Romanticism.

Yeats is the youngest son of Irish portraitist John Butler Yeats and the brother of William Butler Yeats, the 1923 Nobel Prize in Literature recipient. He grows up in Sligo with his maternal grandparents, before returning to his parents’ home in London in 1887. Early in his career he works as an illustrator for magazines like The Boy’s Own Paper and Judy, draws comic strips, including the Sherlock Holmes parody “Chubb-Lock Homes” for Comic Cuts, and writes articles for Punch under the pseudonym “W. Bird.” In 1894 he marries Mary Cottenham, also a native of England and two years his senior, and resides in Wicklow according to the 1911 Census of Ireland.

From around 1920, Yeats develops into an intensely Expressionist artist, moving from illustration to Symbolism. He is sympathetic to the Irish Republican cause, but not politically active. However, he believes that “a painter must be part of the land and of the life he paints,” and his own artistic development, as a Modernist and Expressionist, helps articulate a modern Dublin of the 20th century, partly by depicting specifically Irish subjects, but also by doing so in the light of universal themes such as the loneliness of the individual, and the universality of the plight of man. Samuel Beckett writes that “Yeats is with the great of our time… because he brings light, as only the great dare to bring light, to the issueless predicament of existence.” The Marxist art critic and author John Berger also pays tribute to Yeats from a very different perspective, praising the artist as a “great painter” with a “sense of the future, an awareness of the possibility of a world other than the one we know.”

Yeats’s favourite subjects included the Irish landscape, horses, circus and travelling players. His early paintings and drawings are distinguished by an energetic simplicity of line and colour, his later paintings by an extremely vigorous and experimental treatment of often thickly applied paint. He frequently abandons the brush altogether, applying paint in a variety of different ways, and is deeply interested in the expressive power of colour. Despite his position as the most important Irish artist of the 20th century (and the first to sell for over £1m), he takes no pupils and allows no one to watch him work, so he remains a unique figure. The artist closest to him in style is his friend, the Austrian painter, Oskar Kokoschka.

Besides painting, Yeats has a significant interest in theatre and in literature. He is a close friend of Samuel Beckett. He designs sets for the Abbey Theatre, and three of his own plays are also produced there. He writes novels in a stream of consciousness style that James Joyce acknowledges, and also many essays. His literary works include The Careless Flower, The Amaranthers, Ah Well, A Romance in Perpetuity, And To You Also, and The Charmed Life. Yeats’s paintings usually bear poetic and evocative titles. Indeed, his father recognizes that Jack is a far better painter than he, and also believes that “some day I will be remembered as the father of a great poet, and the poet is Jack.” He is elected a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1916. He dies in Dublin on March 28, 1957, and is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery.

Yeats holds the distinction of being Ireland’s first medalist at the Olympic Games in the wake of creation of the Irish Free State. At the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, his painting The Liffey Swim wins a silver medal in the arts and culture segment of the Games. In the competition records the painting is simply entitled Swimming.

(Pictured: Photo of Jack Butler Yeats by Alice Boughton)


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Birth of Oliver Joseph St. John Gogarty

Oliver Joseph St. John Gogarty, Irish poet, author, otolaryngologist, athlete, politician, and well-known conversationalist, is born on August 17, 1878 in Rutland Square, Dublin. He serves as the inspiration for Buck Mulligan in James Joyce‘s novel Ulysses.

In 1887 Gogarty’s father dies of a burst appendix, and he is sent to Mungret College, a boarding school near Limerick. He is unhappy in his new school, and the following year he transfers to Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, England, which he likes little better, later referring to it as “a religious jail.” He returns to Ireland in 1896 and boards at Clongowes Wood College while studying for examinations with the Royal University of Ireland. In 1898 he switches to the medical school at Trinity College, having failed eight of his ten examinations at the Royal.

A serious interest in poetry and literature begins to manifest itself during his years at Trinity. In 1900 he makes the acquaintance of W. B. Yeats and George Moore and begins to frequent Dublin literary circles. In 1904 and 1905 he publishes several short poems in the London publication The Venture and in John Eglinton‘s journal Dana. His name also appears in print as the renegade priest Fr. Oliver Gogarty in George Moore’s 1905 novel The Lake.

In 1905 Gogarty becomes one of the founding members of Arthur Griffith‘s Sinn Féin, a non-violent political movement with a plan for Irish autonomy modelled after the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy.

In July 1907 his first son, Oliver Duane Odysseus Gogarty, is born, and in autumn of that year he leaves for Vienna to finish the practical phase of his medical training. Returning to Dublin in 1908, he secures a post at Richmond Hospital, and shortly afterwards purchases a house in Ely Place opposite George Moore. Three years later, he joins the staff of the Meath Hospital and remains there for the remainder of his medical career.

As a Sinn Féiner during the Irish War of Independence, Gogarty participates in a variety of anti-Black and Tan schemes, allowing his home to be used as a safe house and transporting disguised Irish Republican Army (IRA) volunteers in his car. Following the ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, he sides with the pro-Treaty government and is made a Free State Senator. He remains a senator until the abolition of the Seanad in 1936, during which time he identifies with none of the existing political parties and votes according to his own whims.

Gogarty maintains close friendships with many of the Dublin literati and continues to write poetry in the midst of his political and professional duties. He also tries his hand at playwriting, producing a slum drama in 1917 under the pseudonym “Alpha and Omega”, and two comedies in 1919 under the pseudonym “Gideon Ouseley,” all three of which are performed at the Abbey Theatre. He devotes less energy to his medical practice and more to his writing during the twenties and thirties.

With the onset of World War II, Gogarty attempts to enlist in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) as a doctor. He is denied on grounds of age. He then departs in September 1939 for an extended lecture tour in the United States, leaving his wife to manage Renvyle House, which has since been rebuilt as a hotel. When his return to Ireland is delayed by the war, he applies for American citizenship and eventually decides to reside permanently in the United States. Though he regularly sends letters, funds, and care-packages to his family and returns home for occasional holiday visits, he never again lives in Ireland for any extended length of time.

Gogarty suffers from heart complaints during the last few years of his life, and in September 1957 he collapses in the street on his way to dinner. He dies on September 22, 1957. His body is flown home to Ireland and buried in Cartron Church, Moyard, near Renvyle.

(Pictured: 1911 portrait of Oliver St. John Gogarty painted by Sir William Orpen, currently housed at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland)